Dave Doeren wanted his team to "cut it loose" against North Carolina. When the Tar Heels rallied, NC State buckled down and the Wolfpack is not finished playing this season.
NC State's 28-21 win over North Carolina at Kenan Stadium Friday could potentially have a far-reaching impact in terms of the program's direction over the next few seasons but it what is clear is the Pack's sixth win of 2016 means that, despite the many obstacles they have faced in the past couple of months there will be a 13th game.
Gaining bowl eligibility for a third straight year was not easy for NC State , both in the context of the season and the game against the Tar Heels.
The Wolfpack twice led by 21 points, including a 28-7 advantage to start the fourth quarter. North Carolina fought back and with more than half of the final period remaining NC State saw its lead cut to seven.
With the season on the line the Pack came through. For Doeren, playing in the bowl game is a reward but the victory over the Tar Heels was about much more.
"This has nothing to do with the bowl game," Doeren said. "I’m glad they get to go to a bowl game, but today was about mastering ourselves, finding a way to win, and doing it against our rival.”
Ever since the loss to East Carolina in the second game of the season NC State and Doeren have been questioned. The three-game winning streak following the trip to Grenville almost moved the Wolfpack into the clear from criticism. A four-game losing streak afterwards, with NC State shooting itself in the foot often during that span, gave the naysayers a platform.
The victory over North Carolina gave the Pack its own dais to speak from and they took the chance to make their views known.
"We could have easily gave up, but we didn't," Josh Jones said. "We could have easily gave in after last week and hung our heads, but we kept our heads high. We went out and fought today, and we beat our rivals. We've been through a lot together. People can say what they want to but I know what my head coach stands for and what he's all about. All the losses we had, you can't put on him. The players go out there and play. We have to execute the plan."
Two seasons ago after winning at Chapel Hill handily Doeren mentioned that as the winner of the rivalry game it was NC State's turn to talk for the next year.
After spending the past couple of months listening to others the Wolfpack earned its right to talk Friday. They had plenty to say.